by Lucesita Gomez
Situated south of Balboa Park lies the neighborhood of Golden Hills. This neighborhood was where I spent my childhood. I lived with my parents and my mothers’ parents in the 19th Street apartments, the ones next to the East 94 Martin Luther King, Jr. freeway sign.
I have very fond memories. Each morning I’d smell the coffee my Abuelita would make for herself and my mother, while I would have mine with milk and animal crackers. My Abuelita used wooden plates, and I always loved to hear my Lucky Charms hit the bowl.
After breakfast, I’d go exploring. Since we lived in the first house, I’d go walking along the path over to the last house. I remember there being a garden in the backyard, and I would sometimes sit and play in the dirt, or I would play in the bushes or with the flowers. In our front yard I’d sometimes go and sit on the grass, just watching people pass by, or I would sit and watch the cars go by.
During my time there, I remember there being a loquat tree in our front yard, and my Abuelito would get a stick and tear down a branch full of loquats just for us. Loquats were our favorite treats. During the day I remember that our house was always busy. Family members would come to visit and stay for dinner, and my cousins and I would play out back, so it was never a dull moment. My older cousins would take me in their car to go to the park and play on the swings and feed the ducks.
Shopping in our neighborhood was so much fun. I remember as a kid I would walk with my Mom and Abuelita over to the Golden Hill Market, and I would always buy a chocolate Crunch bar as my treat. But if I didn’t feel like having a candy, I would get an ice cream, and I remember I would always get those little Darigold cups of vanilla ice cream with that chocolate fudge swirl and a wooden spoon.
The manager would always be so friendly with us, I think his name was Chuck. I also remember walking to our local Jack in the Box for a burger and fries and two tacos. I also remember shopping at Price Club with my Abuelita, Abulito and Mom. Over the holidays we would get a free box of food and I thought it was so cool.
When we didn’t have errands to run, I’d walk with my Abuelita and my Mom and just look at all the beautiful homes. As a kid, I often thought to myself why we didn’t live in a big house. It was then that I realized that we weren’t rich, but yet we were. We were rich in love and family. We didn’t have much to live on, but it was enough.
During my elementary school years, I remember I would always get free lunches, yet my Abuelita would always give me $2 for a soda and a candy. I remember during the time that I lived on 19th Street, I always noticed that my Dad was hardly ever home. That was another big sacrifice we had to deal with. It was tough for me and it still is now as an adult.
As a kid, my father worked for NOAA as a Chief Bosun, which is a person who is a crewman of the deck department and is responsible for the components of a ship’s hull. I would always write to him, and sometimes he would write back and sometimes he wouldn’t. When he would call us, I felt sad upon hearing his voice, because I always thought something bad was going to happen to him. But we would see him for like a week or two, and he’d be gone again for months at a time.
I grew angry at this, as I needed both my parents, not just one. But my mother explained to me that since she couldn’t work, our father was the sole provider for us. It was hard to understand back then, but I got through it. In the evenings as a kid, I would look outside the small window and gaze out at the Downtown San Diego city lights. I always thought they were magic.
In the middle of the night I’d peek out at the window. Everything was dark except for the lights, and I’d love to hear the cars go by at night and hear the crickets chirping. In the early morning, watching the sunrise was the best part. Sunrise was when everything felt alive. The birds. The house. The whole city. I miss my childhood, but like everything else, so we too must change and adapt to new surroundings.
I miss my Abuelito and Abuelita, but most of all I miss my mother. These three people instilled in me my religion, my culture, and my self-worth. Thanks to my Abuelito and Abuelita, I would never have learned to respect different cultures and people, nor learn to love my own culture, even when others are against it. My mother gave me life, and without her I never would have learned how to be happy with what I have now.
Living in those apartments on 19th Street made me realize that even though life can be rough and you don’t have much of anything, you can make a difference by looking at life with your eyes wide open and accepting yourself for who you are and what you already have, rather than wishing you had more and not be happy at all. Even the homeless are happy just to have life, to feel the sun on their skin, to be alive. And if a homeless person can achieve self-happiness, then everyone can. All we have to do is believe, and we can make the most out of anything at all in life.